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Google Webmaster Tools - Mandatory for SEO

Google Webmaster Tools are a fantastic set of free tools from Google that puts an end to the Google links guessing game.
First, if you have a new site you can get Google to spider it immediately.  This is in contrast to the several weeks or sometimes months it takes to get spidered and placed in search results organically.  To do so, simply use the Sitemap submission tool. 

Essentially you just point Google to the sitemap.xml file on your site, which must be in the root directory; sometimes this is called "www" in ftp view depending on your site configuration.  On your site it will appear as www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.  Google will then ask you to download a small text file and place it in the same root directory.  Google uses this code to verify that you are the site owner.  Once you've completed this step Google will immediately start spidering your site and will report statistics which brings us to the other tools. 

Google Webmaster Tools

Google provides a diagnostic tool that logs HTTP errors, not found errors, time out errors, and others.  It also shows how many pages are blocked by your robots.txt file.  This tool can also display crawling results for mobile phones, assuming your site is intended to support mobile phone browsers.
Google Statistics is a great group of tools that can show your site's most popular search queries, index stats, subscriber stats, and crawl stats. 

This may not sound very powerful, but don't be fooled, this is a lot of important information.  Search queries, for example, doesn't just show what search terms are getting clicked (like in Google Analytics) but also which terms are being displayed.  Think that can help you improve clickthroughs?  You bet it can!  Likewise the subscriber stats can show you how many users are getting your feeds using iGoogle, Google Reader, or Orkut.  This makes a nice compliment to Feedburner stats.  Finally, the statistics tools include a "what Googlebot sees" utility to validate spidering of your site code.

The Links tool, to me, is the most important one of the bunch.  If you've ever used the "link:www.yoursite.com" tool to see what backlinks Google lists you are basically wasting your time.  The tool from Google Wemaster, on the other hand, shows you every single backlink that Google sees, which page it links to, and also the internal links for your site.
The last section of tools, is actually called "tools" and contains a variety of gadgets. 

There is a robots.txt analyzer which will show you what directories you are blocking access to.  Other important tools in this area are those for turning on image search and setting a geographical target for your site; great ways to enhance your search engine traffic.

Google ties this together with an Overview page so you can see the most relavent site information in one easy to access location.  The tool, is of course, free and can be accessed using your existing Google user account.  As with Analytics, you can have multiple sites set up with one single login making it great for SEO professionals.

Google Webmaster Tools is the missing link that will help you get a grip on your search engine optimization results.  If Yahoo traffic, likewise, is important to you, they have their own, albeit less sophisticated tool at Yahoo Site Explorer.
Tag : SEO
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